WASHINGTON -- Asking the Federal Aviation Administration to search for a Texas legislator's plane was not a misuse of government resources because the agency answered questions using the Internet, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said today.
DeLay, in a briefing with reporters, said he has no second thoughts about his office's decision to call the FAA May 12 to locate the plane of Rep. Pete Laney. Laney used his plane to join other state Democrats in Ardmore, Okla., where they stayed four days to prevent a vote in the Texas Legislature on a GOP-favored redistricting bill.
"The IG report went and pointed out exactly what we did. We asked for publicly available information. In fact, I think the report pointed out that in order to answer our questions, they went to the Internet to get the answers quicker, than they could going through their own processes," DeLay said.
DeLay's comments preceded a House hearing this afternoon that was to focus on a Department of Transportation investigation into the eight-hour search for the Laney's plane. An investigation report was released Friday.
Investigators said the information sought by DeLay, R-Sugar Land, could be obtained through the commercial Internet sites, some that require nominal fees. But the information given DeLay, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Homeland Security Department came from FAA databases, investigators said.
"Some of it may very well be available on the Internet but I didn't hear that Mr. DeLay had a subscription to those services," said Rep. Jim Turner of Crockett who is ranking Democrat on the House committee with oversight of the Homeland Security Department.
The investigation also concluded that at least 13 FAA employees helped look for the plane and FAA offices in Washington, Texas and Oklahoma assisted.
The report also found that some FAA controllers knew the plane was linked to the political dispute ongoing in Texas at the time.
Democrats disagreed with DeLay's interpretation of the inspector general's report.
"I don't see how anybody can read that report and come back that there was not a misuse of resources. Mr. DeLay made all the contacts to the FAA and found out where Pete Laney was located," said Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston.